Sport may “involve risk of injury, and where there is negligence there is scope in the sporting arena for those harmed to take legal action,” (Schot 2005). Negligence is the absence of reasonable care where it should have been exercised. For negligence to be proven according to English law four conditions must exist (Caddell 2005):
*Duty or Duty of Care-There is a relationship between the defendant and the complainant so that the defendant owes a duty to exercise reasonable care to the complainant. This duty could involve team officials and spectators. The key issue is the defendant has a duty to ensure that all efforts are taken to protect claimants.
*Breach of Duty-The defendant action has fallen below the applicable standard of care for a given situation. For example, if the World Boxing Association requires the presence of medical doctors for all of its events before the bouts can begin, then such requirement may be determined to be the standard of care.
*Proximate Cause-Causation between the negligent conduct and the resulting injury must be established. For example, the organizers accommodated 10, 000 spectators above the standard for one of its stands and the stand collapsed. If evidence can be offered that the stand collapsed was due to the over seating then negligence was the proximate cause of the spectators' injuries.
*Damages-The complainant must suffer damages. The complainant must prove that the damages they have suffered are directly related to the breach of a duty of care. If not then the fourth condition of negligence would not have been met.
The UK Court of Appeal acknowledged that duty of care was established following two separate cases brought by rugby players who had suffered severe spinal trauma as a result of the referee's failure to exert adequate control over a highly technical area of the game. In the case of Smoldon v Whitworth 1997, the claimant, Benjamin Smoldon, sued rugby referee Michael Nolan for “the referee's failure to apply and enforce the rules of engagement at the scrummage led to an unacceptably high number of collapses of the type that eventually led to his debilitating injuries,” (Caddell 2005: 418).Nolan conceded that he owed a duty of care to all participants.
In the case of Vowles v Evans, the defendant referee Evans, unlike Nolan, disputed care of duty towards the players. The Court of Appeal upheld liability, and “categorically rejected the arguments of the defendants,” (Caddell 2005: 422). According to Lord Phillips MR, a “ match official owes a duty of care to the players, irrespective of whether the match is played by adults or minors, amateurs or professionals,” (Caddell 2005:422).
The aforementioned is important to ensure that any form of violent behaviour does not escape appropriate legal sanctioning once negligence can be proven.
"I don't feel it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning." Michel Foucault
Anand Rampersad (PhD)